Bryce Harper has come back down to earth following a great start to his career, hitting just .214 with a .594 OPS in his last 40 games and .171 since the All-Star break.
His overall OPS is in danger of dipping below .750 for the first time since May 19 and the 19-year-old told James Wagner of the Washington Post that he’s searching for answers:
I’m all over the place right now. So I’m trying to find some mellowness at the plate and in the box. Just trying to work at it everyday and try to take something good from every at-bat and take something good from every game.
It’s certainly not surprising that a 19-year-old rookie is going through an extended slump after a strong start and even with his overall numbers declining rapidly Harper is still having a historic season for someone his age.
Among all the 19-year-olds in baseball history to log at least 300 plate appearances in a season Harper’s current .758 OPS ranks sixth-best behind Met Ott, Tony Conigliaro, Mickey Mantle, Cesar Cedeno, and Freddie Lindstrom. And directly in front of Edgar Renteria, Ty Cobb, and Ken Griffey Jr.
The Red Sox have clinched the AL East for a third consecutive season, beating the Yankees 11-6 in the Bronx on Thursday night. It’s the third consecutive season in which the Red Sox have won the division, the first time that’s ever been done in club history. In fact, the only other times the Red Sox won the division in back-to-back years were 1903-04 and 1915-16.
AL MVP candidate Mookie Betts went 4-for-5 with a two-run single in the second inning off of Masahiro Tanaka and a three-run homer in the eighth against Aroldis Chapman to put the game out of reach. Jackie Bradley and Brock Holt also hit homers. Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez was on the hook for five runs in 3 2/3 innings, but three of them scored when Heath Hembree inherited a bases-loaded situation, then served up a grand slam to Giancarlo Stanton in the fourth. The rest of the bullpen combined to fire five scoreless innings. Steven Wright had three of them followed by zeroes from Ryan Brasier and Craig Kimbrel.
With the loss, the Yankees’ lead over the Athletics for the first Wild Card slot shrinks to 1.5 games. Meanwhile, the Red Sox will try to clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. With a 104-49 record, their closest competitor is the 95-57 Astros. With nine games remaining in the regular season for the Red Sox, they would have to lose every game remaining in the regular season and the Astros would have to win their 10 remaining games in order to fail to claim home field advantage.